By now, you’ve probably seen the billboards advertising Sky’s new channel, Sky Atlantic. The result of an exclusive deal between Sky and HBO, it’ll be the home to some of the greatest television series ever made. I’m very, very excited about it, for quite a few reasons.
One reason to be excited is the heap of new programmes coming as part of the deal with HBO, some of which have been particularly long-awaited. I’ve loved everything David Simon has done, including The Wire and Generation Kill, two of the finest programmes in television history, both of which will be appearing on the channel and its on-demand service, so I’m really looking forward to Treme. A post-Hurricane Katrina drama set in New Orleans, it stars John Goodman and Wendell “The Bunk” Pierce. Another major highlight is Martin Scorsese’s Boardwalk Empire, starring Steve Buscemi and Kelly Macdonald. Set in prohibition-era New Jersey, it will begin on the channel’s February 1st launch night with the most expensive pilot episode produced in television history.
Other new series from HBO to get excited about include Bored to Death, New York-set comedy about a struggling writer who takes a career U-turn, starring Jason Schwartzman, Zach Galifianakis and Ted Danson. Sean Bean stars in epic medieval fantasy Game of Thrones, based on the best-selling books by George RR Martin. Mildred Pierce is a new five-part mini-series starring Kate Winslet, Guy Pearce and Evan Rachel Wood. Another brand new series is How To Make it in America, from the creators of Entourage, which will also return with a new season, along with new episodes of In Treatment and Weeds.
There will also be one-off productions from HBO, including You Don’t Know Jack starring Al Pacino, who makes a rare appearance on television as assisted suicide advocate, Dr Jack Kevorkian, Temple Grandin the story of the autistic best-selling author and animal welfare expert, and Drew Barrymore stars in Grey Gardens. Documentary premieres include Spike Lee’s When the Levees Broke, Martin Scorsese’s Public Speaking and Robin Williams in Weapons of Self Destruction.
The channel won’t be only showing HBO programmes, with Sky buying the rights to season five of AMC’s critically acclaimed Mad Men, Showtime’s The Borgias, Neil Jordan’s historical drama featuring Jeremy Irons and Derek Jacobi, and CBS’s Blue Bloods a brand new police drama and one of the highest rating new show in the US this year, starring Tom Selleck.
It’ll also be home to some of Sky’s own home-grown productions later in the year, including This Is Jinsy, the surreal comedy series that was piloted by BBC Three last year, and Hit and Miss, a drama series from Shameless creator Paul Abbott about a pre-op transsexual contract killer. Interesting. Sky Atlantic will also feature the two-dimensional premiere of Sir David Attenborough’s Flying Monsters, which originally aired on Sky’s 3D channel.
As well as “Jinsy”, there’ll be a strong comedy line-up, drawing on HBO’s archives, featuring Curb Your Enthusiasm, Eastbound & Down and Flight of the Conchords as well as NBC classic Seinfeld.
But what I’m probably the most excited about is the fact that it’ll be showing all those shows I missed the first time around and planned to buy the box set of to catch up. Some of the greatest bit of television of the last decade will be shown in full on Sky Atlantic, such as The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and Battlestar Galactica, all starting from episode one, so Sky+ boxes will be working overtime. The channel will also be showing some older series such as The X-Files, Thirtysomething and ER.
The channel launches on February 1st on Sky channel 108 (whether or not you have HD) and, as I’ve probably already made clear, I’m very excited.